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The "invisible divide" that splinters families and nations

By Carol / November 14, 2013 / 17 Comments

What makes a family? What makes a nation? What holds them together? What tears them apart? My guest today, author Christoph Fischer, explores those ideas in his books, The Three Nations Trilogy.b3-front-sm

I recently read “The Black Eagle Inn,” the third book in Fischer’s trilogy. This book is an intriguing family saga, tracing one Bavarian family from before WWII into the 1970s. Click to read my review.

Christoph and I met through Facebook discussions of indie publishing and writing historical fiction. I’m pleased to have him here today, sharing how the stories in his trilogy developed. Read on!

Family, history and story lines – Christoph Fischer

Writing The Three Nations Trilogy has been an interesting journey for me. I took some actual family stories of which I had only vague knowledge and basic data and placed them in appropriate historical settings. During my research I imagined what it would have been like for my ancestors and their friends and that is how the stories came alive.

My grandmother, originally from Bratislava, cooked differently than Bavarian cuisine. She and my father used odd words and they had a strange accent compared to the locals. On Sundays, we listened to music by Smetana or Slovak folk dance music and although I was born in Bavaria, spoke ( my slightly odd version of) the regional accent and wore Lederhosen, I always felt a little out of place. I always knew that this invisible divide would be a central theme for my books.

The failed marriage of my grandparents in Brno in the 1930s and my grandmother’s subsequent life served as the starting point. When I did my research on Slovakia for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners,” I was naively surprised to find racial hatred at that time someplace outside of Germany. Slovakia even joined the Axis powers, even if it was partially motivated to do so to rid itself of the Czech ‘dominance.’

The blame for all of this was put on the clumsy dissection of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the Great War. Czechs and Slovaks were thrown into a political Union to keep the German minority in those areas under control. Eye witnesses and history texts often talk nostalgically about the golden Hapsburg era and and life in Vienna before WWI, where members of new emerging or would-be nations were living in harmony and peace.

This nostalgic idea needed to be examined more closely and so I did some research and chose exactly that Vienna as the setting for “Sebastian,” the second book in the Trilogy. In “Sebastian,” I told the story of my grandparents’ divorce from my grandfather’s perspective.

Whatever books I read, the supposedly golden era of racial and religious tolerance seemed more glitter and lip service than reality. The Empire had broken and the individual pieces wanted out. Vienna’s upper class lived in a dream world, protected from reality. After the war, a severed Austria had to find a new place in a new Europe. I wanted to portray the positive side of this new beginning. There were missed opportunities and errors made but at least a redundant structure was finally let go. I published “Sebastian” after “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” to show the moment in history isolated with its (sadly) unfulfilled potential.

In “The Black Eagle Inn,” I finally turned to my Bavarian heritage and the myth that some areas of Germany were almost unaffected by fighting, bombing and Nazi terror. It is true that there were pockets of land in the Reich that remained untouched while the Allied armies engaged in a desperate race for glory to Berlin.

Distant relatives of mine had a farm and a restaurant business. I once went to a wedding there and I as in awe of this huge ’empire.’ This became the focal point in the last part of the Three Nations Trilogy. This time there is an ethnically homogenous cast, all members of the German nation and yet they, too, have divisions and eventually need to let go of their strict concept of the ‘Nation’ they want it to be and let it evolve in order to stay strong.

Health problems exempted some from military service and many were too old or too young to fight. Strong Catholic affiliation supports the claim of many that they were not involved with the Nazis at all. But how would they live with the culprits of the war, their neighbours, the murderers and spies?

After WWII, Germany became a divided Nation, formally through politics but also internally. How could the entire Nation, the new generation live with the shame and rebuild the country – and rebuild it right?

What makes a nation? Loyalty to a throne, borders, religion, customs, language, shared history? Everyone needs to decide that for themselves. You may experience unity with others through shared national, racial or religious identity, but exclusivity and division will not build a lasting nation.

There is huge danger when the national aspect of one’s identity is over emphasised, as was the case in WWII. Remember the Christmas truce football games been French and German soldiers during WWI? Nationalism and the dubious reasons for the war were easily forgotten. The men felt unified because they shared the same reality of trenches and shells.

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Christoph Fischer

Biography:

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he resides today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. He has written several other novels, which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

Here are all the places you can find Christoph and his books:

Facebook  Website

Amazon Blog

“The Luck of the Weissensteiners”: Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook Trailer  B&N 

“Sebastian”: Amazon  Goodreads Facebook Trailer B&N 

“The Black Eagle Inn”: Facebook  Goodreads  Amazon

Trailer

 

Carol

17 Comments

  1. David Lawlor on November 14, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I think the whole idea behind Christoph’s trilogy is wonderful. For so long, Germany has been shown in a pretty one-dimensional light … as a wartime aggressor. Christoph’s trilogy shows a much more nuanced nation than we are used to reading about. As someone who is married to someone who grew up in East Germany, and who has yet to reconcile herself to a united Germany, I appreciate his efforts to highlight the different aspects of life in Germany down through these turbulent years. Congratulations, Christoph on writing about these unexplored strands of history, and well done Carol for another fascinating post.

  2. Carol Bodensteiner on November 14, 2013 at 9:08 am

    There’s always more to any story than we see on the surface. Historical fiction is such an interesting – and useful – genre because it lets readers explore the stories behind the story. Thanks for sharing your insight, David.

  3. Cherie Reich on November 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Congrats on your trilogy, Christoph!

  4. Paulette Mahurin on November 15, 2013 at 10:06 am

    So happy to see you featuring Christoph Fischer’s work at your site. I’ve read all three of his trilogy and highly recommend them. The thing I love about his stories is the human aspect he intermingles with hope on the backdrop of the unthinkable. This is true to life for even in the worst of circumstances the best of human condition shines and makes for wonderful stories. Fischer is a writer with great depth of heart and soul. Thank you Carol!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 15, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Thanks for sharing your perspective from having read Christoph’s entire trilogy, Paulette. When times are so tough, hope is what we cling to. I’m moving the first two books in the Three Nations Trilogy to the top of my TBR stack!

  5. Christoph Fischer on November 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Thank You David for your kind words. I enjoyed adding a few jigsaw pieces to the big picture and thank you Carol for the honour of inviting me to your blog. I feel quite humbled to be in the company of writers whose work I admire.

  6. Christoph Fischer on November 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Thank you Cherie! 🙂

  7. Christoph Fischer on November 15, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Thank you Paulette for your encouragement and support. You have played an important part in my writing ‘career’. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. P. C. Zick on November 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Carol, I’m so happy to see your post. Christoph’s books are very important and present a side of war that is very personal. Thank you, Christoph, for the good work you do.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      It has been a pleasure for me to meet authors like Christoph who are telling stories that present a side of history I’d never have known otherwise. And it’s an honor to be able to help spread the word about such an interesting writer. Thanks for joining the discussion, P.C.

  9. Elfrieda Schroeder on November 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for making me aware of this author Carol. As someone with a PhD in German literature and language I’m interested. I like Christoph’s words, “exclusivity and division will not build a lasting nation.” We have a problem here in Canada in that the province of Quebec is passing a law banning all religious symbols from professional places. Women wearing head coverings seem to be the target here. This goes against multiculturalism and everything the rest of Canada stands for. It will not help to unite us. Christoph also writes, “There is huge danger when the national aspect of one’s identity is over emphasised, as was the case in WWII. ” Our fellow Canadians in Quebec have this problem and it goes back to Canada’s formation and the battle between the English and French to have control. The English won and the French had to “deal”.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Elfrieda – With your background, I expect you’d find Christoph’s stories particularly interesting. His writing encompasses themes many readers will relate to. That’s a really important aspect of good stories. The fact that you could immediately see examples from Canada illustrates that. When I was reading The Black Eagle Inn, I was also thinking about how easily I could point to people and issues in the United States these days that parallel the problems Germany and the Bavarian family faced in his novel. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Sherrey Meyer on November 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Carol and Christoph, thank you both for this intriguing post. Unfortunately for me, I’ve not read any of Christoph’s works but will definitely be looking for them. Both my husband and I appreciate WWII historical fiction and family sagas. Congratulations, Christoph, on what sounds like an amazing trilogy.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      These posts are a great way to meet new authors, aren’t they Sherrey? I hope you and your husband will check out Christoph’s books. Thanks for dropping by.

  11. Christoph Fischer on November 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Thank you P.C. Zick for your encouraging comment. It means a lot!

  12. Christoph Fischer on November 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Thank You Elfrieda, I can only begin to imagine the problems Canada has with its own manifold divides. I have always admired the multiculturalism in Canada and hope that the current problems are only a passing phase .I have had many visits to Canada and fond memories. I wish it were easier in Britain to get good International News. Thanks for your comment and making me aware. I am sure my books will resonate with your ideals of tolerance and integration.

  13. Christoph Fischer on November 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you Sherrey for your kind words and encouragement!

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